Posted by: barbaraneill | December 1, 2011

Common sense for the NHS?

I recently had the misfortune to suffer a particularly unpleasant angina attack, that necessitated a trip, via ambulance, to Maidstone Hospital, which is just a few miles away from where I live. Apparently, the original plan had been to take me to Pembury Hospital, which is about twenty miles away and notoriously difficult to get to, thanks to the fact that there is no easy, direct route. Fortunately for me, however, the ambulance had to go to Maidstone Hospital to pick up a patient who needed to be transferred to Pembury, so it was decided that I should go to Maidstone instead. It has been hotly denied that services at Maidstone Hospital are being ‘scaled down, in favour of Pembury, but my experience has convinced me otherwise.

While I cannot fault the ‘front-line’ staff, I suspect that Maidstone Hospital would benefit from replacing some of its decision makers with five-year old children. The paramedics, doctors, nurses and so on were fantastic and no-one could deny that they are doing an excellent job in extremely trying circumstances. In spite of the obvious frustrations experienced by many, if not all, of them, they remained, without exception, courteous, helpful, friendly and efficient. I really wish I could say the same thing for those who make the decisions that affect them and us.

I spent most of the day in A & E; Accident & Emergency, (at least, that’s what it used to be called, and still is by most of the patients and staff; it’s now officially ECC; Emergency Care Centre, according to all the signs around the hospital building, that have replaced the “A & E” signs). Eventually, I was transferred to the Medical Assessment Unit. To the obvious disgust of the nurse who broke the news to me, I was being transferred to the men’s ward, as that was the only place where there was a bed available. I have to confess, that I wasn’t impressed by the smell of the ward, that was reminiscent of a public toilet.

My sons had bought me a pasta salad from a nearby shop, as I hadn’t eaten all day, and I wasn’t at all keen on eating it in the ward, because of the smell, so I asked if there was somewhere else I could go to eat it. There was no day room, but I was directed to a ‘store room’. I was quite happy with this because it didn’t smell as unpleasant as the men’s ward. The ‘store room’ was obviously a disused ward, as there were rows of lamps and radio connections etc. on the walls. That certainly seemed in keeping with a hospital that is scaling down its services, to me.

I needed a blood test that I was told would be taken at 5.30 pm that day, and I was also told that, provided the results were clear, I could go home. Eventually, the blood test was taken at 6.45 pm, and I was assured that the request for the results would be “marked urgent” and that I could expect the results back “within the hour”. No-one seemed to know what was going on when I asked for the results periodically, after the ‘hour’ was well and truly up and I finally got the results at 10.00 pm!

I was delighted to be told that I could go home and the cannula through which fluids had been administered, was removed from my arm. I was told that I only had to wait for a doctor to sign my discharge papers. Knowing that there was a distinct shortage of beds, I was amazed to be asked if I would be prepared to stay overnight, as there was no doctor available to sign my discharge papers. I was not prepared to do so, as it seemed ludicrous to be using a hospital bed that, clearly was needed by others, simply because of a bureaucratic problem, quite apart from the fact that I wanted to go home, of course!

I could see no alternative but to discharge myself. To my amazement, I discovered that ‘my’ bed in the men’s ward was to be taken by a man who had been taken to the women’s ward due to lack of beds! I could imagine asking a five year old how they might solve the problem of a man in the women’s ward and a woman in the men’s ward, and have no doubt that most of them would be able to solve it easily!


  1. Im really shocked at this, it seems to me that perhaps a little shake up of organisation might reduce some of the problems you experienced. Also, fancy trying to keep you in because of a signature!!!!!!! Im so glad you were able to discharge yourself. Hope you are feeling better now XX

    • I’m much better now, thank you. I’m concerned that the service around Maidstone is being diminished in favour of the new hospital in Pembury. Officially, that’s not the case, but in my experience that is what’s happening. Again, I want to emphasise that I believe the ‘front line’ staff do an excellent job and I only wish I could say the same for their so-called ‘superiors’.

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